Life and Death

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Is Your Gray Hair Increasing Your Risk for Heart Disease?

December 2, 2017

Unless you’ve been sequestered from television news and social media, you probably know that heart disease is the leading killer in the U.S., responsible for killing over 800,000 people a year. That’s more people than cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined. Over 92 million Americans are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease, to the tune of $316 billion in health costs and loss of productivity.

Common risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Hypertension
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history
  • Gender
  • Age

The newest risk factor for heart disease is gray hair. Yes, you heard that right.

Before you go running for a box of “Just for Men,” it’s important to understand that it’s still early – researchers are only beginning to understand the relationship between gray hair and heart disease; more specifically, atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

One widely-accepted risk factor for heart disease is advancing age. Along with gender and family history, age is considered one of the non-modifiable risk factors. Almost from birth, coronary arteries (the arteries that supply blood to the heart) begin to accumulate plaque, made up from cholesterol, fat, calcium and other material on the lining of the arteries. The result over time is a narrowing of the internal diameter and inflexibility of the artery walls. read more

All Entries Appearance Health Life and Death Medicine Technology Weight Control

Body Mass Index – Overweight or Overfat?

December 2, 2017

If you’ve recently visited your doctor, chances are he discussed a new term you’ve never heard of: body mass index, or BMI. But, what is BMI? And, how does it affect your health?

A Primer on Obesity

Muffin top. Love handles. Beer belly. Call it what you want. Most of us are familiar with the struggle of managing our weight. A 2007 survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that 63% of American men and women are overweight or obese. Weight loss has become a $20 billion industry, responsible for the South Beach Diet, Weight Watchers, the Atkins Diet, Nutrisystem and more.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease claims more than 610,000 deaths a year – that’s one-fourth of all annual deaths. While there’s nothing you can do about risk factors like advancing age and gender, other factors like living a sedentary lifestyle and obesity can be successfully managed and reduce your risk for heart disease.

As you gain weight, you put more stress on your heart in an effort to pump blood around to an ever-increasing body size, leading to hypertension. Weight gain is often associated with higher triglycerides, higher LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and lower HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Next, comes arthritis, joint pain, and the threat of stroke and diabetes. Eventually, you realize it’s time to make a change. read more

All Entries Family Health History Humor Life and Death

Those Good Old Time Diseases

August 25, 2017

I was a first-grader at Van Nuys Elementary School the first time I came into contact with the medical system. As a healthy child, the only thing that slowed me down was the occasional off-color weenie on “Hot Dog Friday.” None of the hair-netted ladies behind the steam table thought for a minute that I could have something as serious as Ptomaine Poisoning and wouldn’t have been able to recognize it even if I had. Instead, one of them took off her apron and marched me downstairs to the nurse’s office where she laid me down on an old army cot that smelled of other 6-year-old kids.

Nurse Blumenthal looked like every other grammar school nurse – a clinical version of the Pillsbury Doughboy with a red cross centered squarely on the front of her hat. She was probably a cracker-jack clinician at some point in her career. But, you could sense that 30 years of working nights at the V.A. hospital had eroded her diagnostic skills to the point where she was grateful just to have a place to spend the twilight years of her career. read more

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Watching Grandma Circle the Drain

July 26, 2017

There’s only so many ways you can get rid of a dead body. Regardless of how it got that way – stabbed, shot, bludgeoned, run over by a truck, pummeled, poisoned, choked, tossed off a building or just withered from old age – its final demise has to be handled with care.

Up until recently, you only had two choices. You could bury Grandma in a casket or cremate her. Both cost a lot of money and take weeks of planning. Or, if money’s tight, you could always drive into the middle of the desert in the dead of night, dig a hole by the glow of your car’s headlights and toss Grammy in – sort of the Home Depot approach to traditional funeral services. It’s done all the time – at least in gangster movies.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, funerals can cost between $6,500 and $10,000. Cremations can be significantly cheaper, at $800. But then, there’s that nagging question of what to do with those messy ashes. Do I keep them in an urn on top of the mantel or do I put them in a box out in the shed? And, who gets to keep them? What if I lose them? read more

All Entries Health Humor Life and Death Medicine

Toad-ally High

April 20, 2017

If you think you’ve already tried all of the traditional ways of getting high such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and are looking for a new disgusting, unhygienic way to leave the planet earth for a while, then look no further than the banks of the Colorado River.

Hopping along the river’s shores in southern Arizona, California and northern New Mexico, the “Bufo Alvarius Toad” (also called the “Cane Toad” or “Colorado River Toad”) would otherwise be in danger of being a wolf’s or Gila Monster’s main course if it weren’t for a highly toxic venom it produces whenever it gets agitated – the same venom that can get you high as a kite if properly ingested.

The venom produced by the Bufo Alvarius Toad is a concentrated chemical called “bufotenine” that also happens to contain the hallucinogen, “5-MeO-DMT.” Ingested directly from the toad’s skin in toxic doses, bufotenine is powerful enough to kill dogs and other small animals. However, when ingested in other ways – such as smoking – the toxic bufotenine  burns off leaving only 5-MeO-DMT that can produce an intense, albeit, short-lived rush that has been described as “100 times more powerful than LSD or magic mushrooms,” even if it takes a lot more work to get it. read more

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